A lot of people want to see a network challenge ESPN for supremacy, for a lot of reasons. People like friendly competition, and media tends to create it when there are a lot of players on the board. But there are people (me excluded for the most part) that believe ESPN needs to be taken to the woodshed for its sins committed against sports television, that the genre needs to be rethought and reinvented.
But sometimes you just get it right, even if a show is pretty traditional. Fox Sports 1, of all networks, appears to have found one such show in America’s Pregame. The show has no more than two or three regular cast members, but taps into Fox’s vast resources unlike any show they’ve launched since their opening day in August.
Pregame rides on the easy charm and professionalism of host Mike Hill, who’s clearly just being himself and enjoying it immensely on camera. The only other person to appear on the show daily has been Molly McGrath, who provides news updates throughout the hour. From there, it’s Hill and a series of quick-hit guests talking about the pertinent sports events of the day.
The show does this by using every one of Fox’s gaggle of regional sports networks, national columnists and reporters more than any other has to date. On Thursday’s show, the brief guests included Ken Rosenthal from Yankee Stadium, Justin Kutcher and Robert Lusetich from The Masters, Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley to talk about their upcoming fight, Austin Croshere to talk NBA, Brian Anderson and Bill Schroeder from Citizens’ Bank Park, Royce Clayton to talk MLB, Chris Dingman (!) to talk NHL and Kirk Morrison to talk NFL.
Yes, it’s a strictly informational show, but the fact is that it manages to be extremely watchable. For a network that has stuck with a lot of things that haven’t really worked creatively, it’s good to know that they can pull off simple. Honestly, this should be more of the format of Fox Sports Live, save the extra few minutes for Onrait and O’Toole and the rest of the anchor squad to do their wacky business.
This goes double for the network’s new baseball show, MLB Whiparound, which has also developed a pretty easygoing charm to it. It’s not going to destroy Baseball Tonight or MLB Tonight anytime soon, but it’s a solid option. I am in favor of any show that gives Gabe Kapler a forum to nerd out.
So… is that really it? It appears so, and Pregame seems to be something that could develop into a legitimate alternative in the 6 p.m. ET hour. It’s not flashy, it’s not promising to give you a new look at anything… but it’s merely good and professional, and sometimes, that’s enough.